France Releases New Smoke-Free Plan Which Includes Counterproductive Vape Restrictions

Despite the impressive results achieved by Sweden and the UK following the adoption of a harm reduction smoking cessation strategy, sadly a trend of prohibition seems to be spreading across Europe. France is moving ahead with its tobacco control act which includes a ban on disposables and restrictions on vape flavours.

France’s health ministry has introduced a comprehensive plan to combat cigarette smoking, with the aim of reducing smoking-related deaths and creating a tobacco-free generation by 2032. Cigarette smoking accounts for 75,000 preventable deaths annually in France and is the leading cause of premature death before the age of 65.

The plan includes incremental cigarette price increases, reaching €13 per pack in 2027, and a ban on smoking in various public spaces, such as parks and beaches. The initiative also emphasizes strengthening support for smokers, particularly vulnerable groups. However, the plan also includes a ban on disposable vapes and restrictions on vape flavours.

Disposables are an easy entry point into vaping for smokers
The ban on disposables is raising concerns as given the non-committal nature of the products, the products are an easy entry point into vaping for any smokers considering switching to the safer alternatives. Similarly, flavoured vapes are known to be one of the main motivators for smokers to switch to vaping.

France’s daily smoking rate exceeds the EU average, with 22.2% of people aged 15 and older smoking daily. Health Minister Aurélien Rousseau highlighted the significant impact of tobacco on public health and expressed the need for large-scale action. The plan has garnered support from the League Against Cancer, emphasizing the urgency of broad-scale measures to reduce smoking, especially among the youth.

An official report released last August revealed that France loses more money due to lives lost and prevention spending on alcohol and tobacco than it gains from taxes on these products. The economic cost of tobacco smoking in the country is estimated at €156 billion. This price tag includes lives lost, the impact on cancer patients’ quality of life, and state spending on prevention and care.

France’s plan is missing a comprehensive harm reduction strategy
The World Vapers’ Alliance (WVA) has expressed concern regarding France’s newly announced National Tobacco Control Program (PNLT) for 2023-2027. While recognizing its positive steps towards reducing tobacco smoking, the WVA highlighted that the plan is missing a comprehensive harm reduction strategy within the program.

The program’s failure to fully recognize harm reduction, emphasizing that alternatives like vaping, nicotine pouches, and heat-not-burn products, which have played a crucial role in reducing smoking rates worldwide. The WVA is particularly concerned about the proposed ban on disposable vapes and restrictions on vaping flavors, fearing potential setbacks in smoking cessation progress.

Spain to set even harsher vape laws
Meanwhile, France’s neighbour: Spain, is sadly adopting an ever harsher approach towards vaping. The recently released Comprehensive Plan for the Prevention and Control of Smoking 2021-2025 and the Draft Bill on the Tobacco and Other Related Products Market has proposed a ban on flavours, higher taxes on vapes, a ban on vaping  in smoke-free areas, and a ban on online and specialized store sales.

THR experts are highlighting that such restrictions would prevent smokers from switching to a less harmful alternative and potentially push vapers back to smoking. Vaping is considered 95% less harmful than smoking by Public Health England, and studies suggest it is over twice as effective for quitting as traditional nicotine replacement therapies.

Researchers at the Yale School of Public Health have recently found that vape flavours increase the likelihood of smoking cessation by 230%. Banning flavors and aligning prices of vapes with those of combustible cigarettes would jeopardize progress in reducing smoking rates. Spain, with over 50,000 annual smoking-related deaths, is urged to adopt a harm reduction strategy, following the examples of countries like Sweden and the UK, two countries which have reached record low smoking rates and have made astounding strides towards becoming smoke-free.